Effective 01 January 2012, you must present valid identity documents when buying train tickets in China. This can, however, be to your benefit, since you can get a replacement ticket should your original ticket registered to you end up lost.
▶ At present, personal ticketing is not practiced, and no ID is needed, onboard all Beijing Suburban Railway Line S2, or Jinshan Railway trains.
Passengers from abroad will usually use their passport. National identity cards from foreign countries will not be accepted. Irish or US citizens might wish to use their passport booklets if ticketing via passport cards fail.
In general, driving licences are also not accepted. Chinese citizens of the mainland might be able to get temporary passenger ID with their driving licence, as the 18-digit Resident ID Number is also in the driving licence. If you are from any other country or territory, you will not be able to use your driving licence as valid identification for ticketing in any case.
Resident expats in China — general situations
If you are a legal resident of China you may additionally use your residence permit, Green Card (permanent residence permit), diplomatic / consular document, or entry / exit documentation. Apart from your passport, these other ID documents must have been issued by the government of the People’s Republic of China.
Resident expats in China — passport with immigration police?
In practice, you may also use the yellow Visa / Stay Permit / Residence Permit Application Receipt issued to you by Chinese immigration police if your passport is with the police awaiting a visa, stay permit, or residence permit application or extension decision. If this yellow receipt doesn’t work, ask for temporary passenger ID at staffed stations (you will need a local “one inch” photograph, which is smaller than regular passport photos). There is also an alternative to seek identification documents from your embassy or from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, although these avenues are less utilised.
Passengers from Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan
Passengers from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan must either use their travel document used to gain access to the mainland, or a People’s Republic of China-issued Travel Document. The old booklet forms of mainland entry permits issued to Hong Kong and Macao residents are no longer valid.
Chinese citizens of the mainland
Passengers from mainland China may use their Household Register, Resident ID Card, passport, military / armed police ID, or ID used for travel to Hong Kong, Macao, or Taiwan. Students under 16 who are less than 1.5 metres in height may also use student ID. This also applies to former foreigners who were naturalised.
▶ Temporary Passenger ID: What happens if you lose or forget your identity document
Please note, if you lose an identity document, you must report this to the police and, if you are a foreign national in China, to your nearest embassy or consulate.
Photocopies are accepted only for ticket purchase. It is unlikely scanned copies shown on screens will work either at counters or at the ticket gates. Therefore, your best bet is to use originals, especially when travelling.
Truncated name? Ticketing staff will usually type in your surname on your ticket, but some will type in the full name — either first name first, or surname first. If your name exceeds eight letters, it will be truncated and the ninth letter will be an asterisk. This does not affect the validity of your ticket!
Privacy, please! In the interest of privacy, part of your ID number (or passport number) will be replaced by asterisks.
Remember ticket staff often default to the following ID for different travellers:
- Passengers from abroad: Passport
- Passengers from Hong Kong or Macao: Mainland Entry Permit for Hong Kong / Macao Residents
- Passengers from Taiwan: Mainland Entry Permit for Taiwan Compatriots
- Passengers from the Chinese mainland: Resident ID Card
You can also use only the above four types of ID documents if you will be booking online (or via smartphone apps) or using “regular” phonebooking services.